Friday, September 9, 2011

Moonlight and Common Day / Louise Morey Bowman

Moonlight and Common Day

Listen — you very very Few who will care to listen —
And I will tell you a story
Of moonlight.
Don’t imagine because I try to tell stories of moonlight
That I am a poet — neurotic and mystic —

(Dearly as I love the things that some poets — neurotic and mystic —
Can write!)
As for me I love good food and beautiful clothing,
And well-ordered, punctual living
Behind tall, well-clipped hedges;
And practical, common-sense people.
But still ——

Let us open my casement window, Beloved,
Where the dark leaves stir in the silence,
And the sweet, wet earth breathes softly
And murmurs an exquisite word.
Any moment out into the moonlight may issue
White creatures, and elfin-formed things that we know not,
Quaintly and solemnly marching and chaunting inaudibly.
Something stirs by the willows—
Do you know what that sound is, so lovely and shuddering?
It’s the owl’s cry.
The grave, small, gray owl that in purple dusk comes sometimes
To sit on my window-sill, eyes open, dreaming,—
Hark how he is linking us in with the moonlight,
Like a horn faintly blown in blue heaven.
(Do you remember, Beloved, a night,
Glad years ago in a pine-wood,
In the moon-lighted darkness—
How the rhythmical thunder of waves on the white shore
Blended with us and our heart-beats, Beloved?)

Let us lean from the window
As if faintly-blown horns have called us to answer three questions.
Is Life food and raiment and conquest?
Is Love conquest and intrigue and passion?
Is Death a gaunt figure white-shrouded
Dealing blows out of blackness?
Let us fling back our eternal “No!” as an answer—
To the listening Silence,
While the sweet, wet earth still breathes softly
An exquisite word.

But tomorrow
I shall go right on living
As unworthy as ever of the moonlight
Locked up in my soul.

• • •

That is my story of moonlight—
No story at all, now say you?
But it all lies written
Between the lines.

Louise Morey Bowman (1882-1944)
from Moonlight and Common Day, 1922

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada, the United States, and the European Union]

Louise Morey Bowman biography 

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